I hadn’t seen anything like it.
I was born to barbarism, apocalypse, violence, roadworn leather, and septic bloodshed. Not once in that first decade of my life had I known peace, prosperity, sumptuousness, verdancy, or any number of other ten-plate words that I just now had to look up.
But a dome devoted to death as entertainment… that was new to me.
Fleetwood’s Thunderdome, like Fleetwood himself, predated the War, but had gotten a lot bloodthirstier once the world had gone to hell. On the site of the ancient Willow Springs racetrack, it had started out as a simple dome for hand-to-hand bloodsport, but had gotten larger, deadlier, and more spectacular as the years went on. The Dome grew in diameter, then doubled to become an actual steel sphere a hundred feet across, with a reinforced door built into the curvature to admit the traditional complement of antagonists:
(note: similar to this, but much larger, built for automotive combat rather than two-wheeled grab-assery)
Two cars enter. One car leaves.
Those were the only rules, but they were about to be bent pretty hard. Depending on the number of people who chose to fight Toecutter and Bruce alongside Sir Gonville De’Ath, there would be anywhere from three to eight cars entering a spherical cage built to accommodate two. All conventional weapons were permitted, and high speed was required in order to take full advantage of the available real estate. If you couldn’t travel fast enough to traverse the sides and ceiling, you were a sitting duck.
Next to this Globe of Death, still affectionately referred to as the Thunderdome by Fleetwood’s minions, were the garages and machine shops devoted to the combatants who engaged in gladiatorial contests therein. And there we patched ourselves and each other up for a night and a day, to prepare for our last battle over Marion.
With Clank nearly catatonic, and Bill the BUM MIA (along with the five other Mechanics we’d started with), repairs were starting to look like a real concern. Until we spotted a familiar silhouette lurking in the largest garage, albeit much shinier than we’d come to expect his like.
We might have known: there was a Stretchbot out here in the desert. Junior started to wander over to see just how far he planned to bend us over for his services when a squeal of feedback nearly brought me to my knees.
“Who will fight?” bellowed a voice over the PA. “The time has come. The Thunderdome thirsts. A precious prize awaits the victor, who will guide their favored flock of humanity to prosperity, whether on Earth or her Red Brother Mars. Who will fight this battle?”
Two men rolled forward, clad and armored for war.
“Hey hey hey! I’m ready for Love!”
"Hard times demand hard leaders. And nobody is harder than… the Toecutter.
“I believe today I’ll drive… that one.”
The Toecutter and the faithless Bruce Washington rolled forward.
“Who comes to fight? This day we can bend the Two Cars Enter rule. Take us on together, or one at a time. Suit your preference. Who comes to fight?”
I ran to the assembled Drivers.
“We need to save Clankenstein. Even though Stretch can fix most of you up, Clank is the only one who can save my mother. And Marion says we need to work together to help him. He needs us to bring him some things from not too far away, but he’s incoherent, and I can’t get him to tell me what exactly it is he needs. Anyone who doesn’t want to take on Toecutter and Bruce in the Thunderdome should help me figure out what Clank is saying.”